FROM THE ARCHIVE
Federal judge blocks Army training
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THURSDAY, JULY 19, 2001

In a temporary victory for Native Hawaiian activists, a federal judge in Hawaii this week barred the US Army from resuming live ammunitions training on a cultural site on the island of Oahu.

In a 52-page ruling issued on Monday, US District Judge Susan Oki Mollway said there was potential that Native sites and endangered species could be harmed if the Army were allowed to proceed. She rejected arguments from the government that national security would be threatened by a delay in training.

"The Army cannot now come into this court and say that national security will be jeopardized by a delay of a few months to determine this case on the merits," Mollway wrote.

Mollway then issued a temporary injunction preventing training until she can hear oral arguments on the issue. A trial is scheduled in district court on October 29.

The decision gives hope to activists who have tried to protect cultural resources in the 4,200-acre Leeward Oahu valley site. The area is home to the Makua Valley Military Reservation, which has been used for live ammunitions and other military training.

In response to challenges by Malama Makua, a Hawaiian community group, the Army suspended training in 1998 and said it would investigate the environmental impacts at the reservation. Last December, the Army finally issued a finding of no significant impact, or FONSI, clearing the way for training.

Malama Makua immediately filed a lawsuit, hoping to force the Army into preparing a more in-depth study. The group says a number of Hawaiian sites are threatened, such as heiau, or temples, and ko`a, which are fishing shrines. The valley is also home to 30 endangered plant and animal species.

The Army says it has been working to prevent damage to the area and should be allowed to use the reservation. It has voluntarily reduced the training exercise area to 456 acres and has also taken steps to prevent wildfires -- in 1998, a number of fires contributed to the Army's decision to suspend its practices.

"Naturally, we would have preferred a decision that allowed the Army to resume training now," said the Army in a statement. "Our position throughout this process has been that the Army needs Makua in order to conduct realistic training. We remain committed to demonstrating to the court that we can protect the environment in Makua and maintain the readiness of our forces in Hawaii."

The US military has come under fire for training practices elsewhere. After decades of use, the Navy has decided to stop bombing the Puerto Rican island of Vieques -- a move which has angered some conservative Republican lawmakers.

The Montana Air National Guard is currently considering using a location west of the Fort Belknap Reservation as a training range for jet fighter pilots. Some reservation residents are worried about damage to traditional hunting and gathering sites.

Related Stories:
Fighter pilot training ground resisted (6/28)
End to Vieques bombing defended (6/28)
Bombing resumes on Vieques (6/19)
Vieques protests set to resume (6/18)
Bush says Vieques bombing will stop (6/14)

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